The Jamal Khashoggi Case Debrief


credit: flickr

Salem Sayegh

Jamal Khashoggi was a Washington Post writer and political dissident of the Saudi Arabian monarchy. He spoke out against the Saudi crackdown on media, radical islam, and the  regime’s involvement in Yemen. Due to his beliefs and public image, the Saudi government banned him from entering the county.

On October 2, Khashoggi visited the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul to get a divorce, but he never left the building. Theories on how he was killed have consumed the news cycle.

The US, Europe, and Saudi Arabia have had a peculiar relationship spanning half a century. Saudi Arabia’s precious oil and resources have made it more immune to public scrutiny over its social and political policies. Western countries have put their economic interests first in dealing with Saudi Arabia, turning a blind eye to the repressive system that the monarchy has employed.  Many in the media, like Jamal Khashoggi, have made public statements that call for the liberalization and democratization of the Saudi government and society. With Khashoggi’s death, the US and Europe may not be able to ride out the waves of public outcry that support free speech and an independent press

The Turkish government states that the reporter was possibly dismembered inside the embassy by a team of 15 private contractors. They alleged that his body was transported out of the consulate in a diplomatic car. President Erdogan has not made the audio tapes and video footage available to the press. Turkey’s investigation unit has called for the extradition of 18 Saudi nationals in connection with this case.

Initially, Saudi Arabia stated that Khashoggi’s cause of death was due to a brawl in the consulate. Now, their statement has changed to that he was “premeditatedly” murdered while denying that the king nor prince had any knowledge of this mission. Saudi officials have rejected Turkey’s extradition for the alleged 18 individuals. They have called this investigation a “hysteria” and push for time to get their message and facts together. The Saudi king has fired two senior officials and announced the restructuring of the Saudi intelligence department.

President Trump’s comments on Saudi Arabia are not clear and contradictory. When the news first broke out, the president said that he believed Khashoggi was killed in a fist fight- affirming the first Saudi narrative. Later on, he criticized Saudi Arabia’s response to the outrage and pegged their operation as the “worst cover up ever.”  

Secretary Pompeo visited the Crown Prince and commented on how the US wants to maintain a close relationship with Saudi Arabia, while it does not tolerate abuses like the one that happened in Turkey. Some in the intelligence community believe that the royal family members were trying to get Khashoggi to visit Saudi Arabia and have him trapped on domestic soil.  

Jamal Khashoggi’s death tests the economic and political relationships that Saudi Arabia has with Europe and the US. The current news cycle has put a magnifying lens on the political practices of the Saudi government. Suppression, coercion, and fear have become the common threads that support and maintain the current power structures and laws in Saudi Arabia. Now, the US and Europe have to pragmatically alter their economic policies in response to the political backlash that Khashoggi’s case has caused in their respective domestic affairs.